I opened up my Gmail the other day and found an email from the Accounting professor I had my sophomore year at William & Mary. My sophomore year, as in over a year ago. Three semesters ago. I’ve had a dozen other professors since then. I’m not even an Accounting major. I’m not even in the Business School anymore; I changed my mind about all that a long time ago. But still, this professor keeps in touch with an email every now and then.
As the professor of Accouting 203: Principles of Accounting, this professor started his first semester of work at the College with the task of teaching 90 some-odd students, half of us having to get to class at 8 a.m., nearly all of us only signed up for the class because it was a required pre-requisite class, who were…er….well, less than thrilled to be there. And you know what? It was one of the most engaging classes I’ve taken during my time in college.
And this professor was one of the best I’ve had during my time in college. Besides making our could-have-potentially-been-painfully boring Accounting class into something interesting and fun and challenging, this professor rose above and beyond — serving as an incredible mentor outside of the classroom as well.
The semester I had his class, he held weekly lunches with his students. We’d grab sandwiches at the Cheese Shop, or pizzas, and we’d talk about various important topics…like futures in Accounting…or our latest iTunes downloads.
When I needed a faculty letter of recommendation for my study abroad application, he agreed, even though I’d juts informed him minutes before that I was dropping out of the Business School to change my major to Economics. Without missing a beat, he assured me that I would be great in the Econ Department, just as I would have been great in the Business School as well, and that he would of course write my letter of recommendation.
I run into him at football games.
This past December, he invited me, as well as dozens of other past and present students, to a holiday party he and his wife were hosting.
And, he continually sends emails out to myself and others: letting us know about the latest job trends, internships and conferences we should apply for, and just to check in on what we’ve been up to since that Accounting 203 class so long ago.
However, despite all the great things he has done for his students, I have actually been most influenced by something he said to us once.
Back during that semester of Accounting 203, we once had a discussion about all the different schools at which he had been applying for teaching positions. He rattled off a list of some of the best schools in the country (W&M included in there, of course 🙂 ), and then he said, “And you know something that was incredibly different about William & Mary?”
“When I interviewed to teach here, I was told, teaching is your #1 priority at this school. Your research and projects, sure, they’re important too, but not like like your teaching is. Your students come first as a professor at William and Mary.”
And he told us that was what made him choose this place over all the others.
Clearly, for this professor, William and Mary’s standards of a strong dedication to teaching made a world of difference to him. And as an undergrad at the College, it makes all the difference too.
Okay, so maybe not all the professors at W&M take students out to lunch, but lots of them do. My story isn’t unique; you’d hear most students here tell a story about a professor like this they once had. And that is something truly unique about the College: our strong student-faculty relationship. By the numbers, we have a 12 to 1 student to faculty ratio, one of the very lowest of any top-ranked public university, but the numbers just don’t do this relatinship justice….and maybe it’s just me, but I kind of like to think my blog just did. 🙂